Stand Up Paddling with Whales, getting back
to the roots of the sport...
Sam George had what sounds like a pretty exhausting experience in California recently, but he says it was worth every tiring stroke he paddled to get up close and personal with a Gray Whale in Santa Monica Bay.
The whales are pretty common this time of year, and it's certainly not the first stand up paddling whale encounter we've heard about, but Sam tells the story so well - we'll let him explain...
"Now a whale sighting is always a neat thing, the personification of extra-terrestrial intelligence stimulating to even the shallowest imagination. But on this particular day I responded to something a bit less existential: like a Chumash Indian brave, whose tribe once populated this very same coastline, I ran to get my board and paddle, determined to stroke out and draw abreast of the leviathan, pitting my frail craft and puny arms against the sea’s mightiest heart.
Right. I probably just wanted to mess with the poor thing. So out I paddled in full Battle of the Paddle mode, head down, shoulders stacked, high cadence (with no warm-up) looking up every now and then for the spout, digging deep. You know what? Whales, even smaller species like the gray, move deceptively fast.
Now I was paddling as hard as I could, heart rate spiking, my breath rasping, working to close the gap with the gray as it headed out around the kelp in a more north-westerly course. Was I getting closer? With each hurried glance I could see more of its bulk and at one point could have sworn I felt a wisp of its spout on my cheek; we had both turned into what little wind was blowing. I was going full-out. The last time I sustained this pace I was trying to beat Gerry Lopez and win a bet in the Hawaii BOP. Then suddenly it occurred to me that here I was participating in the most primal paddle race, the original battle of the paddle, a man alone on the sea chasing a whale."
He eventually came up along side the beast, but unfortunately with a flick of it's fin, it disappeared under water and was off. So was it worth it? What do you think?